Sunday, January 31, 2010
I was toiling in the wide world of sports last night as Herschel Walker made his MMA debut. Due to usage restrictions imposed by Showtime we could not watch the fight live and we had to wait on a feed of the action to come down a little while later. It’s just one of the realities of the business I’m in. Everyone was interested in how the former football star would do and we all watched intently as the video finally began streaming in. To a man, every person that was still in the newsroom was astonished at the level of fitness Herschel maintained, even at the age of 47. That is when I reminded everyone that Herschel maintains he still trains using the same method that he has employed since high school, a regimen that he maintains includes 2,500 sit-ups and 1,500 push-ups every morning.
You can check out the video from the fight HERE at the Leather Helmet blog.
Herschel won his debut in the cage and looked pretty good in doing so, and that afforded me the opportunity to spend the next fifteen minutes educating my co-workers on how nothing we had seen should come as a surprise. I informed them that Herschel was no stranger to hand to hand fighting, that he had been involved with it since his time at Georgia and that he is a sixth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I also reminded everyone that the man from Wrightsville nearly made the Olympic team in the sprint relay, that he competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics in the two-man bobsled and has recorded times of 10.22 seconds in the 100 meters and 9.3 seconds over 100 yards. Walker is a Georgia legend that began in high school, continued though college where he won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship with the DAWGS, eventually becoming a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Walker played professional football from 1983-1997 in both the USFL and in the NFL. All of this, and did I mention, Herschel is a really good guy too.
Herschel Walker is, without a doubt, one of the finest athletes the United States has ever produced. At this point, nothing we see from Walker should come as a surprise to any of us. I am a Herschel Walker fan, as much for the things he has accomplished since he left Georgia as for the accomplishments he can point to during his time in Athens, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Herschel Walker is A DAMN BEAST!!!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I am a very fortunate man. I am married to a phenomenal woman in Wifey, I grew up in a home with two loving and very supportive parents, a great younger brother that I have a wonderful relationship with to this day and I have more real friends than most could hope for. I am a very fortunate man. I know it and I consistently take advantage of any opportunity to list, for anyone that will listen, all of the varied reasons why. Among those many blessings, I count the fact that I was born in the South and have lived the duration of my life in the great state of Georgia right up there among the best of them. I know where home is. These facts played no small role in my choice to attend the finest school in the land, the University of Georgia. I am proud of my home state and I am proud of my school…in every way.
I tell you that to tell you this.
When I think about the unofficial national holiday for those of us that live and breathe college football, national signing day, I cannot help but think of the process that each young man goes through in choosing the school he will play for, represent and call home for the next three to five years. This process is different for every player, but no less angst-riddled.
When it comes to the University of Georgia, I am invested in this annual process too and for more reasons than just the wins and losses that may or may not result from any player choosing to become a DAWG. Like I said above, these players will become representatives of UGA whether they like it or not. For those of us that truly love the University of Georgia for reasons more than what happens on Saturdays in the fall, that is no small thing. This is just one more reason I am proud to have a person like Mark Richt leading our program. I trust that he will bring quality young people into the program and that he will help develop them into even better young men both on and off the field that we in the DAWG Nation can be proud of.
As Signing Day 2010 approaches I have the same hope that I have every year…that these young men are at peace with their decisions and that they truly WANT to be at the University of Georgia. To me, this is absolutely the most important factor in this entire process.
I want players to come to UGA that WANT to be Georgia Bulldogs. Players that WANT to wear that G on the side of their helmets and play “between the hedges.” I want players that have a genuine dislike for the color orange, that can’t stand the Techies and that truly HATE Florida.
Don’t be misled DAWG fans, unlike Bigfoot, these players actually do exist. The first example that pops into my mind is this weeks RETROBEAST, Greg Blue. I can remember listening to Blue, an Atlanta native, during a radio interview back in 2001 after his commitment to be a part of Coach Richt’s first recruiting class. Blue talked about his utter disdain for the Techies and how he COULD NOT WAIT to play against them saying that he wanted to “knock somebody’s head off.” Need another example?? How about DJ Shockley? Shockley was an all-world recruit and another Atlanta native that could have played anywhere in the country. Shockley chose to come to play for Coach Richt and the University of Georgia. Despite having to sit behind David Green for four years, Shockley stayed at Georgia and ignored those calling for him to transfer to another school so he could play sooner. Shockley stayed because he believed in Coach Richt, because he loved the University of Georgia and because he simply wanted to be a DAWG. When his moment in the sun finally came, DJ took full advantage leading the 2005 DAWGS to their last SEC Championship. How ‘bout another? Nation, I present for your viewing pleasure…AJ Green. Green was another 5-star recruit that had his choice of schools when signing day rolled around in 2008, but despite the fact that he was not a Georgia native and the best efforts of the national power houses (including Urban Meyer and the HATED Gators), Green was all DAWG.
It is happening with the 2010 class too. Georgia safety Jakar Hamilton, a JUCO transfer who enrolled at UGA earlier this month, had this to say in a telephone interview with UGASports:
"Man, I can't wait to get there…I don't think a player should commit just for a coach, they should commit for what the school has to offer. Georgia is ranked No. 1 in the APR, and is one of the top academic schools in the SEC; to me it's the total package. Plus, I get to play for a good, Christian coach like Coach Richt; it's everything I ever wanted."
Hamilton was later quoted in the AJC talking about the physicality with which he plays the game that will soon be on display in Athens:
“I’m one of those players who just don’t care. I’ll throw my whole body even if I have to break something to do it. . . . If I have to catch a concussion, I’ll do it.”
In the end, Hamilton chose the DAWGS over Alabama, West Virginia, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Auburn.
I LOVE IT!
Then, just yesterday, news broke that the DAWGS picked up their first commitment for 2011…Tucker athlete Chris Sanders.
Sanders told UGASports.com that he has always wanted to be a Bulldog and that he just could not ignore the pull of the home state school. Sanders chose the Bulldogs over West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Duke and he believed Alabama was on the verge of offering as well.
Saturday, the ball just kept rolling for the DAWGS as news came that Georgia picked up their second commitment for the class of 2011…Griffin safety Corey Moore. Moore says that he “grew up a DAWG fan” and simply loves Georgia.
Nation, this is exactly what I’m talking about. I want players at the University of Georgia that WANT to be at the University of Georgia and nowhere else. In my mind there is something different about this kind of player, one that believes he is part of something and that he is playing for something greater than self. You couple that type of commitment with the type of commitment that Coach Richt has made to guarantee the development of these young men and his program and I believe you have a recipe for a great deal of sustained success. Glory, Glory!!!
College football’s national signing day is rapidly approaching and this Wednesday the life blood of our beloved sport will receive its annual infusion of talent and hope. Mark Richt will be signing his tenth recruiting class at the University of Georgia. In recognition of this milestone, I am turning the eye of the BEAST towards one of my all-time favorite Richt recruits, Greg Blue. Blue was a key member of CMR’s first recruiting class with the DAWGS and the Atlanta native would go on to become a fan favorite and a lumber-laying legend “between the hedges”.
RETROBEAST: GREG BLUE, #17, SAFETY (2001-2005)
“Bluuuuuuuuuuuuue!” That was the common call that rained down from the stands of Sanford Stadium following each helmet cracking hit from Georgia’s Greg Blue. The haunting call would reverberate across the playing field in the immediate post-mortem of another Blue annihilation. I can still hear it now. The lingering impact of those moments speaks to the physical presence that Blue was in the DAWGS secondary for Georgia opponents.
Blue did not always display the softest set of hands of those that have played the safety position at Georgia, but there is no denying his value as a pure hitter and in run support. Of course, everyone remembers his huge hit at home against Auburn, but I think my favorite may have been the thunder he delivered in 2005 against Georgia Tech.
Blue was a member of some of the best DAWGS teams in the history of Georgia football, posting a 42-10 record from 2001-04 (sixth best in the country), three straight seasons of 10 or more wins, three straight bowl victories, and three consecutive national top six finishes. Regardless of your favorite memory of Greg Blue, there is no denying that he was A DAMN BEAST for the DAWGS and a lock to be mentioned in every discussion of the fine safety history that has developed at the University of Georgia.
He attended Banneker High School in College Park, Georgia, playing football for head coach James Fletcher, graduating class of 2001. In 2000, he was named to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100, Top 50 in Georgia, Class AAA All-State first-team, and Marvelous Metro 11 squad as a defensive back during his senior year. He also received Georgia Sports Writers Association All-State and Super Prep All-Dixie Team accolades. He was named one of the top 25 safeties in the country by Student Sports Magazine. As a senior, he recorded 89 tackles, six forced fumbles, four interceptions, and 14 pass break-ups. He also had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 65-yard punt return for a score that year and helped his team to the 2000 Class AAA state playoffs with a 9-2 record. As a member of the basketball team, he was invited to play in the 2001 Georgia North-South All-Star Game.
While attending Georgia, he registered 176 of his 260 career tackles, eleven of his thirteen quarterback pressures and all 7.5 of his stops behind the line of scrimmage during his last two seasons. Blue was part of a graduating class that earned 44 victories, the most by any senior class in Georgia history. He was redshirted as a freshman in 2001. In 2002, he played as a reserve safety, appearing in every game. He finished with 42 tackles and a pass deflection. He was part of a defense that finished first in the SEC and fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.1 ppg), first in the SEC in red zone defense (58.8%), second in the SEC and 19th nationally in rushing defense (114.0 ypg), fourth in the SEC and 15th nationally in total defense (303.5 ypg), and allowed only 30 total second half points in the final seven games of the season.
The next year, he recorded 42 tackles with two quarterback pressures and three pass deflections. He was part of a Georgia defense that ranked second nationally in scoring defense (14.5 ppg), fourth in total defense (276.86 ypg), sixth in passing defense (174.50 ypg), 14th nationally in turnover margin (+.79), and fourth in number of scoreless quarters (25) among the Associated Press final Top Ten teams.
During his junior year, he was clocked at running a 9.10 100 yard dash time recipient of the Teka and John Adams Football Scholarship. He started all year at Rover, finishing second on the team with 80 tackles (64 solos), and also was credited with a 10-yard sack, three stops for losses of 12 yards and five quarterback pressures. He caused three fumbles and recovered another and deflected three passes. Blue was part of a team that has posted 42-10 record from 2001-04 (sixth best in the country), three straight seasons of 10 or more wins, three straight bowl victories, and three consecutive national top six finishes.
In his last year, he was an All-America first-team selection by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association, adding second-team honors from The NFL Draft Report, as well as being named an All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice. He started all year at Rover, leading the team with a career-high 96 tackles (70 solos). He also added 4.5 stops for losses of 14 yards and had six quarterback pressures. He recovered and caused a fumble and intercepted two passes and deflected five others. Blue led a secondary that ranked seventh in the nation in pass defense (169.62 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (105.88 rating) while being named team co-captain. Blue majored in Child and Family Development and was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Blue was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round (149th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Greg Blue announces his presence with "AUTHORITAH" against the War Kittins
If you are not a fan of Limp Bizkit or off-color language, you may want to mute the audio for this video.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Another week, another BEAST of the vintage variety. In this installment of RETROBEAST we have chosen to spotlight the DAWG that most stands out in the memory of Wifey as a player that intimidated the opponent and dominated the game from the time he stepped off the bus.
RETROBEAST: CHARLES GRANT, #19, Defensive end (1999-2001)
Charles Grant was a prized recruit of former UGA head coach Jim Donnan. He was the type of player whose reputation routinely preceded him to the point of reaching nearly legendary status before playing a down for the Georgia Bulldogs. Grant is a native Georgian from Colquitt and cousin of former Georgia Bulldog Phillip Daniels that played his high school football at Miller County High where he was a star two-way player. Big number 19 had a one-year layover at Hargrave Military Academy in 1998 before finally making his way to Athens in 1999. Grant was a 1997 Parade Magazine All-America for Miller County, a season in which he tied running back Herschel Walker’s state single-season touchdown record with 45 while racking up 3,472 all-purpose yards. During his three year career at Miller County High School, the future Georgia defensive end totaled 101 touchdowns.
Not sure a 6 foot 3 inch, 285 pound man could possibly be nimble or fast enough to be responsible for a touchdown total such as that?? Well, fear not Reader. I can provide you with video evidence. Just watch as a Grant rumbles 90-plus yards for the touchdown as a senior for the Pirates.
Once he arrived in Athens in 1999, the biggest question seemed to be exactly how huge the impact was going to be for this talented DAWG. Grant played both offense and defense as a freshman at Georgia recording 33 tackles and seven sacks, while also seeing time in offensive backfield rushing for 79 yards and three touchdowns. Grant went on to be a three-year letterman and a two-year starter at the University of Georgia. After totaling 63 tackles and six sacks as a junior, this multi-skilled player ended his collegiate career with 136 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 15 sacks, which ranks sixth on the school’s all-time list. Grant rounded out his final season in Athens by being named 2nd team All-SEC by both the AP and the Coaches.
Grant was taken with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. From the Saints official website:
A cornerstone of the Saints defense since his arrival, Grant has consistently been a force as a pass rusher and against the run. He anchors the left side of the defensive line and ranks 10th in club history with 41.5 sacks. The former first round pick out of Georgia has started 90 games since joining the Saints in 2002, more than any other player over that span. His 2008 season was derailed after eight games with a triceps injury, landing Grant on injured reserve for the first time in his career. He was off to a strong start, including notching 41 tackles, posting his first multi-sack game since 2004 and teaming with DT Sedrick Ellis for a safety. Combining with Will Smith to give the Saints one of the top defensive end tandems in the league, in his career Grant has posted 452 tackles, 13 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries – including one in 2002 that he returned 34 yards for a touchdown – and an interception. No player in club history has posted more sacks in his first three years than the 27.5 that Grant had from 2002-04.
You can check out the rest of Grant’s official bio HERE.
P.S. – Grant is one former Georgia player that still bleeds red and black. Prior to the start of this football season, big Charles showed everyone why he is still a Damn Good Dawg!
Matt Bradley is a fourth line player for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League. Alex Ovechkin is the captain of the Capitals and one of the poster boys of the NHL along with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is no star that shines brighter in the NHL galaxy than that of Ovechkin. Ovechkin has been recognized in this forum before as one of the most dominant players in the game, but it is Bradley that garners our attention this time.
On January 12th of this year the Capitals were taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida. During the game, things became a little chippy between Ovechkin and the Lightning’s Steve Downie. Now this in and of itself is nothing special. Hockey is a game that is readily associated with fighting. Much like Nascar, many fans choose to eschew the beauty that those like me see in the game and watch only in hopes of seeing a major fight break out. Ovechkin and Downie are two completely different types of player. Ovechkin is a team captain, an offensive wizard and an imposing physical force on the ice, while Downie is a thuggish character that will fight any time and has been known to take a cheap shot or two if that’s what it takes to get the job done. As hostilities increased throughout the game between these two players their play became more physical. In the third period, with tensions high and the Capitals trailing as the Lightning drew ever closer to snapping an 11-game losing streak to the Caps, things finally boiled over.
Having served their time in the sin bin, Ovechkin and Downie exited their respective penalty boxes at the same time and immediately came together and dropped the gloves as they squared off to fight. That’s where Bradley comes in.
Before the two players could come together, Bradley came off the bench like he was shot out of a canon and headed straight for Downie, cutting Ovechkin off before the fists could start flying. Bradley fought instead of his team captain and Ovechkin was left to watch. I had never seen this before and I thought it was AWESOME. To be clear, Ovechkin does not need anyone to fight his battles for him. He’s a monster of a man and A DAMN BEAST of a player. Downie is a well known bad dude and Ovechkin is one of poster boys for the NHL. Bradley is a fourth liner whose team was behind and needed Ovechkin’s offensive fire power to remain unharmed and in the game if the Capitals were to have any chance at victory. In the opinion of this hockey fan, it was a fantastic play on Bradley’s part. It doesn’t look like there will be any punishment coming down from the NHL offices for Bradley coming off the bench and being the third man in because it looks like the Washington players made a clean change, but if there were I can guarantee you that Bradley would not pay one penny of it.
I think this is a perfect example of what makes hockey a tremendous sport to watch and what makes competitive team sports fantastic in general…a brotherhood among the participants while in the arena. Although it was not necessary for him to intervene, Bradley knew his role in this instance and he carried it out perfectly. He may not even be friends with Ovechkin off the ice (although I believe the exact opposite to be true), but the reality of that situation does not matter. In this instance, Bradley faithfully executed his role to the letter, just as it is declared in the unwritten but ever-present code of the game, and for that he deserves to be recognized in this forum as A DAMN BEAST of a teammate. Matt Bradley, here’s to you.
Check out a couple of videos of the fight, the first with analyst’s comments, from www.youtube.com. Pretty cool stuff.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Recently Mark McGwire admitted his steroid use and Jose Canseco has long been an admitted user and sang like a song bird to anyone that would listen that he was not alone. In the end, it seems that Canseco was more on the mark than off.
On a personal note, it’s a basket of rotten apples that the McGwire and Canseco led Oakland Athletics that first made me pay attention to baseball and the player, McGwire, that pulled me in to the of the magic of America’s past time are soiled.
McGwire said that he used steroids because his body started to break down. Canseco said he had absolutely no qualms about his use of performance enhancing drugs, also citing inherited health issues for his preemptive use. Well, one thing I can say with total confidence is that we will never see my all-time favorite baseball player, Ken Griffey Jr., on the list of steroid users. Unlike McGwire and Canseco, Griffey chose to play it clean and his career suffered for it missing long stretches of games due to injury. Without that time and those games missed, you could make a VERY strong argument that The Kid would be the all-time home run king and not Barry Bonds, yet another “dripping with guilt but not yet confirmed” juicer.
Beyond that, I don’t know where you draw the line on what is fair and foul in this issue. Regardless of the era, I think we would be naive to think that these players are first to look for a way to stay in the game or enhance their performance. There have always been and will always be players that will do something to gain an advantage over their competitors. Now, the more appropriate question may be when players start to juice up. There are plenty of documented cases of players using banned substances in college and minor league baseball and several accounts of high school football and baseball players using steroids to aid in their pursuit of an athletic scholarship. The issue of steroid use by high school students is a very dangerous one that I would dare say is still being avoided or looked away from by parents, teachers and coaches across the country. The pursuit of excellence is something that I will never discourage at any level of athletic competition. However, I have absolutely no tolerance for risking the health of a young athlete for the sake of a higher home run total or a few more pancake blocks.
This whole deal is A DAMN SHAME for me personally and sports in general. Truly sad…on so many levels.
Mark McGwire batting practice, 1998
Mark McGwire career stats
Jose Canseco career stats
Friday, January 15, 2010
When news broke that the DAWGS had a new defensive coordinator in the person of Todd Grantham, currently the defensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys, I was very interested to hear Grantham’s philosophy for coaching the DAWGS. After reading the quotes from Grantham’s teleconference I was jacked and ready to GATA myself! We are months away from the players strapping on the pads and hitting the field again and that is where we will find out all we need to know about Coach Grantham and the new defense at Georgia, but I certainly like what I’ve heard so far. So, as we usher in a new era of gridiron head busting at the University of Georgia, I present for your reading pleasure this edition of RETROBEAST.
RETROBEAST: KENDRELL BELL, #37, Linebacker (1999-2000)
Kendrell Bell was a monster at middle linebacker for Jim Donnan’s DAWGS during the 1999 and 2000 seasons after playing two years at Middle Georgia Junior College. Bell was a native Georgian and a standout at Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia before bringing his hard-hitting game to Athens. Kendrell was a physical presence on the field, quickly earning a reputation as a ferocious hitter and sure tackler. I loved to watch Bell play “between the hedges” and I was as sad to see him graduate as any DAWG I have cheered. As far as I’m concerned, if for nothing more than his hard earned and well deserved reputation alone, Kendrell Bell was absolutely A DAMN BEAST.
From Bell’s official web site:
“He earned All-State honors for the Wildcats and was named All-South by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kendrell also lettered in basketball and track at Laney and finished fifth in the state in the shot put his senior year. From Laney, Bell headed to Middle Georgia Junior College in Cochran, Georgia, where he racked up 132 tackles and 6.0 sacks for a Warriors defense that ranked first in the nation in 1998. His freshman season, he tallied 698 yards rushing as a fullback. After two season, Kendrell headed to the University of Georgia and continued his outstanding play as a linebacker for the Bulldogs. He started 16 games for Georgia and completed his college career with 153 tackles (95 solo), 10.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and 14 quarterback pressures. As a junior, he set a single-season school record with five blocked kicks. He was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection his senior year. Kendrell majored in Child and Family Development at Georgia. He and his wife Tahira Locke-Bell reside in Hollywood, Florida.”
If you prefer your info in the outline form you can check out Bell’s DAWG days below….
• Started 16 games as a defensive standout at Georgia
• Recorded 153 tackles (95 solo), 10.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and 14 quarterback pressures
• Started the final 10 games of his senior season at middle linebacker
• Finished second on the team with 92 tackles (53 solo), 5.0 stops for loss, 2.0 sacks, two quarterback pressures, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles
• Added a pass defensed and an interception
• Was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection
• Finished fourth on the club with 61 tackles (42 solo) as a junior
• Also had 5.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 quarterback pressures, three forced fumbles, a pass defensed and three interceptions
• Set a school single-season record with five blocked kicks
• Began his college career at Middle Georgia Junior College in Cochran, Georgia
• Tallied 132 tackles and 6.0 sacks for a defensive unit that ranked first in the nation in ‘98
• Gained 689 rushing yards as a fullback during his freshman campaign
• Majored in Child and Family Development at Georgia
Kendrell was a second-round selection (39th overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2001 NFL draft. Bell was voted the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the year in 2001. He also played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
After almost a month and a half, Coach Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs have a new defensive coordinator…Todd Grantham. Fantastic. Grantham is currently the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. I have never cared for the Cowgirls…and I love the DAWGS and the University of Georgia…so nothing could please me more than to see the Vikings put yet another disappointing end to a season for Tony Romo and his merry band of mates in Jerry World, while at the same time freeing up Georgia’s new defensive coordinator to get to Athens and become immersed in all things DAWG.
We’ll get to what I think of the next era of defense in Athens town in a minute, but a quick recap of the process that got us here is in order first.
I have had and shared my confidence that Coach Richt would do his due diligence and find the man he trusts to direct the defense at Georgia, demanding maximum effort and execution from his players and helping them to play up to and beyond their potential in the pursuit of greatness and championships in the years to come. Although names that are well known by those that follow this game were absolutely involved in this process, I can’t help but think that Coach Richt was simply following through on his plan to cover all his bases before securing his choice. It is no secret that Coach Grantham has been on Richt’s radar from the early stages of this process. As for the others that were believed to have been involved…Bud Foster, John Chavis and Kirby Smart…well all I can offer are my thoughts on each coach.
**Bud Foster – When I first heard this name I had two thoughts…1) Wow, CMR really is aiming high. Foster is widely regarded as a good person and a very strong DC with a proven track record of success. 2) I never thought Foster would be at Georgia. Foster is just a company guy. He if ferociously loyal to Frank Beamer and has been the not-so-secret, though officially un-named head coach in waiting at Virginia Tech for years.
**John Chavis – I was never really high on Chavis coming to Georgia simply because I have never been overly impressed with what I have seen from his teams on the field. The numbers have been very respectable, but his teams have never really passed the eye-ball test for me. I was actually glad to hear that he did not want to come to Athens. Besides, I know it’s a business (as this off-season has rabidly shown thus far), but I know me and I would have a really hard time getting behind Chavis totally. He was just a Volunteer for too long for me to look on him too kindly.
**Kirby Smart – There is no denying that the production of the Alabama defensive unit under the guidance of the former Georgia Bulldog has been outstanding. However, the longer that dance went on between Georgia and Kirby, the more awkward and uncomfortable I felt. At the end, I actually thought that the very best case scenario if Kirby accepted the job would be that Smart would choose Georgia, the stars would align in his second year back in Athens and the DAWGS would win a conference championship (with the possibility of greater championships) and he would be off for good. Everything else would have been viewed as a failure in judgment on Richt’s part or a failure on Smart’s part to produce. To me, it just felt as though the fan’s wanted this hire to happen as much for how it would “feel” or how it would “look” to those not associated with the program as they did based on the on-field production. I actually felt that the program dodged a bullet when Kirby chose to stay in Tuscaloosa. Maybe I’m totally off base here, but that’s how I felt regardless. I did not like the idea that whatever success a Kirby-led DAWGS defensive squad and in turn a Mark Richt led Georgia team, might have would be perceived to be nothing more than some byproduct of the Nick Saban machine. I’ll admit that is an extreme thought process to some degree, but my pride in the University of Georgia is just so great that I would rather any successes achieved not be associated with anyone other than the young men, coaches and faculty members that directly earned them.
And here we are. Coach Richt finally has his guy and there is no doubt that changes will be evident almost immediately upon the arrival of Coach Grantham and the staff he chooses to bring with him. By definition, the 34 defense that Grantham has chosen to employ in the past is an attacking scheme. It demands tenacity and execution from the players and inherently opens up the opportunity for opposing offenses to make big plays. I am not an insider that stalks the halls of the football offices regularly and I do not know Todd Grantham personally. I do not need to. Statements like this one from Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer made during a telephone interview with Ugasports.com recently tell me all I really need to know at this point…
"I think he's outstanding. I think Todd Grantham is the whole package. He's a smart guy, he's tough; when he was here he was always in the office working, doing what he could to help make our defense better. He was always able to get his players to play good, smart, tough football and to play it well."
What's more, Georgia's new DC seems to get it as evidenced by his statements after accepting the position as the top defensive DAWG...
"I'm very excited about being part of a staff that will work tremendously hard to return Georgia football to one of the premier teams in the SEC. To the fans and boosters of the University of Georgia, I understand the passion and standard of excellence expected. I look forward to developing an aggressive, physical, attacking style defense that offenses will not look forward to playing against."
If you have visited us before you may have seen the attributes that I believe a great defense has to have as laid out in my DWO. Coupling the basic philosophies of the 34 defense with the traits that Beamer speaks of when talking about his former player, coach and current friend, well I am very interested and excited to see what type of defense the DAWGS can become in 2010 and beyond. Beyond being the key word in the previous sentence. I am hopeful that Grantham will fully embrace all things Georgia, will be successful and will want to be here for a long time to come. As we start a new decade, if this hire (which is Coach Richt’s most important since his hire of Brian Van Gorder years ago) turns out to be as strong as we all hope it will be, Georgia is poised to stake it’s claim as a premier player once again on the national stage that is big boy college football. Welcome Coach Grantham. Now, GATA! Glory, Glory.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Watching the recent high school All-America football games, I found myself thinking about what a dicey proposition the business of talent evaluation and projection of football players from the high school level to the college level really is. There is no more inexact science than this and I feel there is no greater indication of just how important coaching is at the collegiate level. One prime example of this, but certainly not the only one during Mark Richt’s tenure in Athens, is featured in the first installment of what is and will be a staple edition here at the BEAST:
RETROBEAST: THOMAS DAVIS, #10, Safety (2002-2004)
Thomas Davis was a student athlete from Randolph-Clay Middle/High School in southwestern Georgia with a total student population of 471. Davis received only one offer to play Division-1 college football. That offer came from the University of Georgia and Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder. Van Gorder offered Davis a scholarship after watching him play basketball and being blown away by how a man with Davis’ size could be so fast, so agile and jump so well. Mark Richt often said that he had never seen a player that was a better tackler in the open field than Davis. Not only was Davis’ tackling technique fundamentally sound, it was also devastatingly violent.
Davis burst onto the scene for Georgia, being on the field in crucial late game situations for the DAWGS in huge early season road victories over South Carolina and Alabama in the 2002 season. Obviously, those wins came in route to Georgia winning its first SEC Championship in twenty years.
Davis finished his Georgia career in the top ten in solo tackles (185) and led the DAWGS in tackles in 2003 and 2004. The Georgia safety earned AP and Coach’s All-SEC honors in 2003 and 2004 and was named an All-America in 2004 by the AFCA, Walter Camp and The Sporting News. Davis was a first round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers in 2005.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Reports broke Friday afternoon that the Seattle Seahawks fired a “stunned” Jim Mora and have targeted Southern California’s Pete Carroll to replace him. Like a flash I spun up a great conspiracy theory about the whole thing and my mind quickly meandered to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and Georgia head man Mark Richt. Sorta weird I know, but stay with me here Reader.
As for Carroll, as soon as I heard the names of the principals involved I had an idea of what was happening. Later, when I heard NFL reporter Chris Mortensen confirm that Carroll was interested in Seattle as well and that USC was already making overtures to Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, I essentially closed this book in my mind as a done deal. Simply and quickly connecting the dots, I came to the conclusion that there is no way that the Seahawks would fire Mora after one season for “not winning enough” by producing a 5-11 record after Mike Holmgren went 4-11 just the year before. Not unless they had already traded up and had their replacement in hand in Carroll. The situation is primed for Carroll to leave USC with the NCAA sniffing all around the program and the exodus of assistant coaches in recent years, not to mention that it seems the Trojan underclassmen have seen the writing on the wall with Damian Williams and Joe McKnight announcing their intentions to enter the NFL draft on the same day the story breaks. The situation in Seattle currently offers Carroll the opportunity to have total control over football operations (in one form or another) just as he currently does at USC, something Carroll has long said would be a mandate if he were to ever consider returning to the NFL. Finally, later in the day when I heard Mortensen say he would be shocked if Carroll-to-Seattle does not happen, I was further convinced this is a done deal. Will it happen? I guess we will have to wait and see, but if it does I will enjoy the fact (in my own personal universe) that I decoded the master plan from jump. Well, at least as far as I am concerned.
Then I thought about Steve Spurrier and his departure from the University of Florida. When asked why he was leaving, Spurrier said that he felt it was time and 10 years at any place is long enough. Maybe this is yet another reason Carroll may soon be the head Seahawk (**as I finish this up I read that sources say Carroll has reached a deal with the Seahawks**). From there, my mind ping-ponged to the head DAWG and what he is currently doing with the football program at the University of Georgia. Mark Richt is not choosing to leave for greener pastures or walk away from the game to spend more time with his family. After averaging 10 wins a year during his nine seasons in Athens, Richt saw his program begin to slip and he has attacked the causes head on by choosing to bring in a new defensive coordinator and, from all reports at this stage, is looking to make that choice from outside his inner circle of friends. I believe Richt realizes that he needs someone that will bring a new and rejuvenated spirit to the Butts-Mehre offices and will be willing to challenge his decision making when necessary. This is not only good for a program, it is absolutely vital to maintaining the type of edge necessary to compete in a league that has produced the last four national champions, a feat never before accomplished in NCAA college football.
I was NEVER saying that I thought Coach Richt was thinking of leaving or that his job was or should be in any danger. If you have ever read my thoughts here before, you know exactly where I stand on Coach Richt and the program he has built at Georgia. To the contrary, I wanted to acknowledge Coach Richt for recognizing the issues within his program and taking the steps necessary to rectify them. Spurrier chose to leave Florida and it looks like Carroll is headed back to the NFL, but that is not who Coach Richt is. The Georgia head coach has made no secret of the fact that he will be at the University of Georgia as long as the DAWG people will have him and his actions this off-season prove that he is willing to do what it takes to make sure that the Georgia program maintains the level of success he is responsible for bringing to Athens…to finish what he started and has built. THAT is who Coach Richt is and I am glad he is our man.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I considered writing about this topic the other day and it turns out that BUI has beaten me to it. I saw the word on Butler and Robey and wondered whether they will still be DAWGS come February, but I did not fret over it.
This stuff doesn't bother me at all. We all must make decisions in this life and these young men will make theirs. Maybe these players will honor their word and honor the pledges they made long ago and Georgia will stay on their minds. I hope so. If not, I say fare the well and I will not think of you going forward. I have no time for those that have chosen to walk away from the red and black and I am confident that it will be their loss. Glory, Glory.